by Erinn Burgess
U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz
July 30 was a normal day for Kemisha Miller, a caregiver at the Wetzel Child Development Center in Baumholder, until a baby under her supervision began to choke on a peach.
Miller’s quick response with emergency lifesaving techniques she learned on the job enabled her to save 1-year-old Mila’s life.
Miller was turned around feeding another baby when she realized Mila was choking.
“First I heard her; then, once I turned around and saw her, I immediately got her and proceeded to do back blows and the finger scoop,” Miller said. “I was so scared, but I knew what to do and instantly my motherly instincts kicked in.”
Miller was able to get the stuck piece of food out of Mila’s airway, which enabled Mila to regain her breath.
Miller said the experience with Mila felt very personal to her because she has a 2-year-old daughter, although she’s never encountered a situation like this before.
“If I didn’t have the training that we have at the CDC, I probably wouldn’t have known how to respond,” said Miller, who has worked at the Wetzel CDC for a year and a half. “They really prepare us for emergency situations like this.”
“I’m thankful to God and I’m humbled by this situation,” Miller continued. “I thank the management team and everybody for all of us sticking together and having one goal — to make sure the kids are safe.”
Mila’s mother, Karina Pino, works for Child and Youth Services in Baumholder as well.
“I am so grateful to Kemisha and the Wetzel CDC staff,” Pino said. “If it weren’t for their wonderful team, I would not be able to come to work with a clear mind. I always know that my daughter is in good and caring hands. The amount of dedication they have towards their children is out of this world. I will never be able to show enough gratitude towards Kemisha for saving my daughter’s life.”
Elizabeth Kearney, Wetzel CDC facility director, said Miller’s response was spot-on.
“We pulled the video footage — Kemisha was concentrating and interacting with one child, but you saw her stop, look over and it was instant,” Kearney explained. “It gave me chills when I watched the video because it was so perfect the way she got Mila in her arms and executed — it was just textbook.”
Kearney said training is a big focus for CYS because the better-trained staff are, the better they perform, the better their interactions, and the better they feel about their jobs.
“The higher the morale is, the happier the children are, and the happier the families are. So, it really all comes back to training,” Kearney said. “This team really believes in training and will do everything we can to get our people to it and get them what they need to be successful.”
The team’s training and hard work also paid off during a recent inspection by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, in which Wetzel CDC achieved their five-year reaccreditation.
“When you go through accreditation with a team like this, it seems a little easier because they’re so committed to quality care,” Kearney said. “It was a process, and we grew together through it. Everyone pulled their weight and did above and beyond what was expected. We’re so lucky to have who we have here on our team,” she concluded.